BY RACHEL HYLAND
With the annual water cooler-worthy season finale of Game of Thrones having aired this week, it may seem that the television landscape is now bleak indeed until September blessedly rolls back around. After all, comic book TV is on pause while the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. retool, Daredevil’s nemesis plots revenge and The Flash runs really, really fast around the event horizon of that black hole that makes no sense; the paranormal hijinks of brothers both Winchester and Salvatore are taking a well-deserved breather; and the likes of Forever, Resurrection, Helix, Hemlock Grove, The Messengers and even [adult swim] staple Aqua Teen Hunger Force are headed for that big speculative parallel reality in the sky, only to be seen again in repeats. (Though no one really wants to repeat those three episodes of The Messengers, do they?)
So with all of these worthy, and not-so-worthy, entertainments currently off the air, what are we left with? A Hulu marathon of seminal 90s masterwork American Gothic–happily available now? A YouTube binge-watch of that webseries you’ve always meant to check out, or yet another visit with your beloved Firefly box set? Yes, probably, all of those, and doubtless you’ll want to assay the quiver of series premieres the likes of Netflix’s Sense8 (brought to you by the Wachowskis, for good or for ill), Space/Syfy coproduction Killjoys (space bounty hunters!) and USA’s Mr. Robot (which you’ll be surprised to learn is not about a comically eccentric android who solves crimes).
But also, these returning veterans may also be worthy of your time…
Entering Season 3; Friday June 12; Syfy
About three decades hence our planet has been devastated following colonization by a collective of refugee alien races known as Votans – but don’t think identifying the many, many individual species thereof is that easy – who arrived here after a five millennia journey to discover that intelligent life had evolved since they remotely called dibs. Our hero is Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), who returns to St. Louis to discover that it is now known as Defiance, a polyglot community of assorted humans and aliens into which he introduces his adopted daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), who just happens to be an alien herself. The show is a good, if complex, time—and has been steadily improving since its premiere in 2013. There is also a tied-in MMORPG, if you’re into that kind of thing.
SFF Pedigree: Not only is Alien Nation and Farscape auteur Rockne S. O’Bannon a co-creator of the series, but Julie Benz is in it. Indeed, it is an unwritten law of the universe that at any given time, Julie Benz will be starring in at least one SFF series. It is currently Defiance’s turn.
THE LAST SHIP
Entering Season 2; Sunday, June 21; TNT
A nasty global pandemic has left much of humanity either dead or dying, and only the crew of the USS Nathan James can save us! With the stalwart Commander Tom Chandler (Eric Dane) at the helm and XO Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin) spending much of his time on gleeful interrogation duty, the crew must fend of al-Qaeda, Russians and even their own countrymen to assist virologist Dr. Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra) in finding a cure. When last we left these folks all was not well aboard the Nathan James – and it’s been a long, anticipatory wait to see just what is next for these intrepid sailors who may not bear much resemblance to their templates from William Brinkley’s 1988 novel, but are no less awesome for all that. (For that matter, so far there’s been no nuclear war in the show, either.)
SFF Pedigree: Jayne is in it.
Entering Season 5; Sunday, June 28; TNT
Now several grimy, perennially unshaven years after ruthless aliens invaded our planet and attempted to enslave humanity for no good reason, former-professor and (SO. VERY.) devoted father Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) will doubtless spend the pre-announced final season of this gruelling but still enjoyable post-apocalypse leading his ragtag bunch of survivors to unlikely victories against a far superior foe. In fact, at the end of last season Tom went to the moon, witnessed the sacrifice of his half-alien daughter and is now presumed dead by everyone he holds dear. So, yep. Same old, same old.
SFF Pedigree: Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, y’all.
Entering Season 5; Monday, June 29; MTV
Shut. Up. Teen Wolf is so much better than you think it is. It is certainly far better than the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie that spawned it, and to many that would seem impossible. You probably know the story: inexplicably unpopular, impossibly beautiful young man becomes a werewolf and uses his new powers to get his sports team to the Big Game. The fact that the sport in question is now lacrosse is probably the smallest change between the film and the series; the largest perhaps being that Scott’s dual identity is a dread secret in the TV version (though not much of one, really, given the amount of people who know, or should at least suspect, by now). Season 5 will see Scott and his scene-stealing best-friend Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) seniors in high school, dealing with new friends and old enemies, many of whom are were-animals of some sort. It’ll be fun! Plus, without having at least one MTV show in your rotation at all times how else will you know what music the kids are listening to now that Glee is over?
SFF Pedigree: Aside from anything else – and this show is an amusing game of “Hey, I Know That Guy! Sci-Fi Edition” in most episodes – frequent director and co-exec Russell Mulcahy also directed the first two Highlander films. Yes, the good ones.
Entering Season 2; Wednesday, July 1; CBS
Essentially a PSA on the dangers of space exploration as well as full of ideas ripped from across the spectrum of both SF and Horror, Extant is nevertheless an intriguing, often exhilarating, near-future jaunt through the life of astronaut Molly Woods (Halle Berry) and her assorted non-human children, who kind of want to her to die. It’s actually hard to see this one having gone the distance without the phenomenal Berry in the lead role, but with last year’s finale having cleared the way for new storylines above and beyond Molly’s thwarted yearning for ankle-biters, it’ll hopefully be worth sticking around.
SFF Pedigree: More executive producing of the Spielbergian kind, plus every now and then the always excellent Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse, Agent Carter) drops by.
And if all of those fail you, there’s always the sheer insanity that is Under the Dome, somehow entering its third season on June 25. Because we can all use a good laugh every now and then.
— Rachel Hyland
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